Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arrr... I mean, Oui

"After a recent trip to New York one French journalist remarked that leafing through a copy of Forbes or Fortune is like reading the operating manual of a strangely sanctimonious pirate ship."

Adam Gopnik
Pais to the Moon

Monday, September 29, 2014


Why is it that if we want law enforcement assistance, we occasionally 'call the police department',but usually 'call the police', whereas if we want help to extinguish a fire, we always 'call the fire department', never 'call the fire'?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Un, Deux

One week from right now, I'll be on a flight to Paris.  For the seven days after that, I'll be in a small French town enduring attending a French Language Immersion class.  All French, all the time. Then for the second week, for about two days, I'll be with some friends in Lille, in northern France, and after that in Paris, with at least three and possibly six other friends, including one very close friend -- the one who makes me say My wife really must trust me; she's letting me spend time in Paris with a charming single woman.

And then I come home.

Given that I'm not fond of elegant food -- or really, much that isn't pizza, burgers, or spaghetti -- I will probably come home a little lighter (which could certainly stand to occur) and with a bit of a headache (though my friends speak English, pretty much, I'm going to try to do the whole week in French).

Should be interesting.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Tomorrow my friend (the one who didn't get the scholarship) takes an oral interview to determine whether she can even apply for the doctoral program.

I hope she gets in. I find that it's almost as important to me that she succeed as that my own daughter succeed.  I don't exactly know why, but it is. As for the money that I offered her to supplement any financing she finds -- she probably won't take it.  But if she wants it, it's hers.  Flat-out gift. We're not rich, but her success is surprisingly important to me.  I think its because I like her -- we both do -- and because it someone offends me that someone with that much ability is being held back because her parents are idiots.

Tomorrow, I'll know.

Turns out, she didn't.  Only one person in the group passed. 

Monday, September 22, 2014


I admit it.  I'm looking for a reason to stay longer in France than just the two weeks.  Say, if the Air France pilot's strike went on for another week, which would (could) mean that my arrival at the class would be threatened, so maybe I should go to the class late, like November.....which happens to be during the winter, when my friends said I could live at their house if I wanted.

I know that I am very lucky to be going at all (just the other day, I realized that I was thinking yeah, I'm just going to be in France for two weeks, thats all..., and then I realized TWO WEEKS?  ALMOST A FULL WEEK IN PARIS? THAT'S ALL??? So I do know that.  And I know that I get antsy if I haven't seen my wife lately, and I'm not that fond of French cooking, and staying would be expensive, even if I stayed with our friends. Its not going to happen. I know this.

But yeah, I'm thinking about it.  Sue me, I like France.

First World Problem

I am apparently incapable of telling the difference between the Panera Cinnamon Crunch and the Panera Asiago Cheese bagels.  After slicing two, and finding that both were cheese (one only after I'd started to toast it), New Rule:  The Asiagos get their own bag, clearly marked.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


No, I'm not fixating on the French immersion trip.  Doesn't everyone quickly look up the verb to melt while waiting at a traffic light?

(Faire fondre. You're welcome.)


Maybe just a little....

Friday, September 19, 2014


I'm not in love with France, but when I read things like this, I could be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I'm sorry, were you saying something?  I was having an apodyopsic episode. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In The Library

Some people can really focus.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I'm four years younger than my father was when he died.  I wonder how he felt when he was my age?  Did he feel middle-aged, like me?

Friday, September 12, 2014


My daughter tells me that she's enjoying a finance course, so we're going to do a little exercise. 

She's going to pick two or three stocks that she likes, write down why, note the value of each on a given day, then track them for a month or so.  At the end, if she's 'earned' money, I'll give it to her, and if she's 'lost' it, I'll take it from her bank account. 

This is my way of making it a little more real. She likes it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Why is it so awkward to lend a large amount of money to people who need it?  Okay, I guess I know the answer, but still.....man.

Certainly, it's the kind of thing that people like us never do, usually can't do;  in fact its effectively a deux ex machina arriving to solve an intractable problem, and we know how often those occur.

The impulse is to make the offer once, and, if rejected, to drop it. Well, we tried. Because, if they take it, what then? What do you do?  Go on with life as if the offer was trivial? Ignoring it would feel as if the act is being taken for granted; talking about it would feel like you're required to be constantly thankful on the one side, or constantly wanting to be thanked, on the other.  It would be the elephant in the room -- can't joke about it, can't make passing reference to it.You might want to know if things are still okay between you - are we cool? - but you can't without alluding to the elephant. Better to not even offer.  After all, its not as if they expect it.

And yet - a good friend might have to change her life plans because of something that we can help to fix. Isn't it worth the awkwardness to try?


If you don't know what this is, it would be difficult for us to be friends.  Not impossible, just difficult.

Environmental Awareness

Being surrounded by hundreds, thousands of excited teen girls - sounds good, right?

Not necessarily.....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Monday, September 08, 2014


Got up a little earlier than usual this morning so that I could go for a walk with my wife.  Made breakfast, settled down at the table with her.  Took one bite,  started coughing and sneezing.

Oh, come on - cold season is here already???

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Sometimes the engineer in me -- he's very small, and spends most of his time looking for a lost pocket protector -- thinks that I should chart out the times when I feel like French is a waste of time, just so I can see if it comes in cycles.  And then I think I could know that a the-hell-with-this is arriving on the 4:03 from Tulsa tomorrow, and I wouldn't be able to do a thing to change it.  I know that the optimists would say oh but then you could PREPARE yourself, surround yourself with GOOD things, build up an emotional barricade to sustain yourself until you start seeing some positive stuff again.

To which I say Get back in your rabbit hole and let me be. 

I know that the only way to improve is to try, continually.  I do know that. 


Couldn't sleep, so I got up to do some reading, and along the way decided to do a little DuoLingo.  I should have stayed in bed.

"They are able to/They can" is Ils peuvent" (or Elles peuvent).

Ils is They, masculine plural, Elles is They, feminine plural.

Ils is pronounced Eeel. Elles is pronounced Ell. 

Peuvent is 'are able to' or 'can' - 3rd person plural.

Peuvent is pronounced Puhv.

So Ils peuvent is pronounced Eeel puhv.  Elles peuvent is pronounced Ell puhv.

I have known for almost two years that you do not pronounce the 'ent' ending of a verb. I know this.

And yet I still want to pronounce those Eeel poovent and Ell poovent.

I need to start studying more.

French, jamaica me crazy.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Reading, More

Waiting at the library for my wife, I picked up a thick book titled Brave Genius - A Scientist, A Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize.

How good is it?

I sat and read thirty pages.  And learned a little about history while I was at it, such as what actually happened in the Sudetenland negotiations, and why did the French think that the Maginot Line was such a great idea?  Interesting stuff.

On one hand, I think how relevant is this in an age of terrorism and infowar?  On the other, it's really well written.... and its got France as a backdrop.  And you know (probably) how I feel about France!


You know that you like a book when you start looking for fan fiction about it, even given how horrible (except to the authors) most fanfic is.

That's what Tour of the Merrimack is making me do.  I am eying the ever-decreasing pages to be read with dismay.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


Apparently, a good friend of mine is going to continue a relationship with a married guy, because he's very, very nice, very very smart, very very interesting, and because he makes her feel good about herself.   They're not taking it all the way, mostly because he's married, but they are not stopping, either.

I feel so badly.  I wish I could do more for her than just point out problems or suggest alternatives, knowing that in that situation, an alternative is weak beer, at best.  I mean, she loves this guy, and apparently, he loves her just as much.  He needs her, and she needs him.  Clearly. (She showed me notes from and to him, which is how I know.)

He's just, you know - married.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Pleasures of the Void

There is a certain pleasure in discovering that you actually have more money than you thought, because, as it turns out,  you'd recorded one transaction twice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Photo, Finished

Preparing for my trip in October, I thought I need to buy a camera, the class said to bring one, I don't want to bring the 'real' one, and my phone has, at best, a suggestion of a camera which functions only slightly better than having a pen-and-ink drawing whipped up by the cabin boy.  (Its an old cell phone.  So old, it could have a crank and a mouthpiece.)  So I'm looking at cameras, and, what the heck, looking at new phones, because, hey, if I'm thinking of spending the money anyway, why not look at getting better overall functionality, right?

Then my wife said doesn't that phone that we use for overseas trips have a camera?  And it does.  Not as snappy as the new phones, but lightyears better than my regular cell phone.  So, good. I'm happy.

And then yesterday I was hunting in my daughter's room for something and saw a small camera on her bookshelf. Small enough to drop into a pocket, any pocket. Where'd this camera come from?  Oh, I found it while I was cleaning out under her bed. So I email the offspring.  Does this work? Can I have it? And she replies Yeah, it works, I forgot about it, sure, you can use it. 

So now I have two for the trip.  More than enough.  But it does make me wonder - what else do we have lying around that we've forgotten about?